Brenda Santiago-Vazquez: Persistence pays off

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Two scholarships have empowered one dedicated student to realize her girlhood goal of working in medicine. For as long as she can remember, medical assistant student Brenda Santiago-Vazquez has wanted to heal others.

She recalls giving her brothers imaginary injections and pretending to fasten blood pressure cuffs onto their arms. Although colleges expenses once made her cherished ambition seem out of reach, Santiago-Vazquez’s drive and intelligence earned her the financial support she needs to complete her studies with flying colors.

Santiago-Vazquez earned funding from the Blanca Class Smith scholarship, established to commemorate a former Northampton Community College counselor and leader in the local Hispanic community. She also garnered support from a scholarship in memory of Lehigh Valley philanthropists Donald B. and Dorothy L. Stabler. Santiago-Vazquez feels deeply grateful for the assistance that is equipping her to cure patients.

“When you go to the ER, you come in feeling sick and you walk out feeling better. That’s what I want to do,” said Santiago-Vazquez, who plans to work as a pediatric medical assistant for a few years after graduating. After gaining work experience, she hopes to study nursing at Moravian College in Bethlehem. She would like to specialize in neonatal care.

To set an example for her two children, Santiago-Vazquez completed a one-year GED program in just three months before enrolling at NCC in 2019. Santiago-Vazquez found it daunting to re-enter the classroom for the first time since she left high school in 2012.

In addition to relying on supportive professors, Santiago-Vazquez turned to KEYS staff members for help with paying for childcare and transportation. The KEYS partnership between the state Department of Human Services and the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges makes education accessible for students receiving federal financial support. KEYS Student Facilitator Betsy Greer expects Santiago-Vazquez to excel as a medical assistant and later a nurse.